By Alice Hale | The Collegian
Medical problems and the need for healthier eating habits prompted two local women to start their own mobile restaurant, and one of them spoke with culinary arts students Feb. 12 on SE Campus.
Executive chef Christina MacMicken was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when she was 18. She and co-owner Megan Topham opened up their food truck, named Lucy, about a year ago. Just before opening the business, Topham was diagnosed with celiac disease, an intolerance to wheat or gluten.
Both found the need to change their diets drastically to help offset their symptoms.
At the time of her diagnosis, MacMicken said she weighed 280 pounds and was having numerous health issues because of her MS. Over the next eight years, she focused on bettering herself through dieting, exercise and choosing healthier, gluten-free alternatives to the ingredients she used regularly.
MacMicken said a gluten-free lifestyle does not necessarily correlate with medicine and proven studies. But it still works in many cases, she said.
“Most neurologists recommend that if you have any type of auto-immune disorder that going gluten-free will help,” MacMicken said. “It’s going to be more about what you physically react to and for me, more than anything, once I took gluten out of my diet, I became a completely different person.”
Good Karma Kitchen is regularly parked at Clearfork Food Park in Fort Worth with about five other food trucks. MacMicken said they chose a food truck over a restaurant mainly for the personal attention they can give their customers. The women support and hope to encourage a healthy lifestyle to their customers by serving strictly gluten-free and vegan meals, she said.
Their business is more about making people aware of different food options that taste good but can be enjoyed by everyone, including those who have extreme food allergies, MacMicken said.
“People do not realize that we cannot eat at these other food trucks or at most restaurants,” she said. “On opening day, we had a boy crying outside the truck because he had never been able to have chocolate cake before that day. People need to feel safe when they eat, and not a lot of restaurants offer that.”
Making people aware that most restaurants do not accommodate specialty diets is another goal of Good Karma Kitchen. To influence those same people enough to consider adding alternatives to their menu is a huge success in MacMicken’s opinion.
“We are responsible for the plates that we are putting out,” she said. “And if I can plant a seed in somebody to where they are thinking about that, then great.”
Culinary arts student Stephanie Ingram is still undecided on exactly which direction she wants to go with her career but found MacMicken’s presentation informative.
“I don’t think [gluten-free] is something I would want to do, but I would maybe offer some items on my menu,” she said.
Student Adrian Gutierrez was impressed with MacMicken’s journey.
“I found her story amazing,” she said. “It’s awesome seeing someone that is so passionate. I think it’s just incredible that she used [her personal experience] to help motivate her to start this amazing thing.”